Wake detention officers fired after man found unresponsive in cell
Posted March 27
Raleigh, N.C. — Two detention officers who were working the day an 18-year-old man was found unresponsive in his cell were fired for "conduct unbecoming," according to Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison.
Jose Humberto Lara-Pineda was charged with killing a man near a Raleigh greenway, and was placed in the Wake County Detention Center on March 21. Jail officials said Lara-Pineda was found unresponsive in his cell just before 6 p.m. on March 22.
Wake County Detention Center detention officers, medical staff and Raleigh Police officers tried to resuscitate Lara-Pineda, but their attempts were unsuccessful. He was taken to WakeMed where he was pronounced dead on March 22.
According to Harrison, Jowanna Mitchell, 42, a 13-year employee, and Steven McKoy, 36, a 4-year employee, were fired following Lara-Pineda's death. Harrison said neither of the officers’ actions were directly responsible for Lara-Pineda's death, but it is possible they did not follow proper policies and procedures.
Lara-Pineda had not been fully processed into the jail and was awaiting a psychological evaluation in a holding cell, according to an attorney for the sheriff's office. According to Harrison, policy requires officers to check on inmates four times per hour if they are awaiting a psych evaluation.
"That's our policy. That's not state policy," Harrison said.
He did not say whether Mitchell and McKoy checked on Lara-Pineda as required.
"This is something that I discovered from 1 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. Some things that were not right that I discovered later, and that's the reason for their termination," Harrison said.
Police charged Lara-Pineda with the death of Fredys Odilo Del Cid Ramos, 28, who was found in a wooded area in the 3200 block of Calumet Drive. Authorities said he was strangled.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement also put a detainer on Lara-Pineda, who came to the U.S. from El Salvador, authorities said.